Last week I was up in Harrogate for a few days at the New Wine Leaders’ conference. Never having been to one before, I was unsure what it would be like – but it was actually very inspiring.
Christy Wimber’s opening talk stressed how important it is for leaders to get their joy and satisfaction primarily from God. If we don’t receive from the Lord enough, we risk placing too much pressure on those around us. Then we are in danger of things like burnout and disillusionment – and we end up as one of the many leaders who fail to finish well. God’s voice has to be the one which is loudest in our lives.
For me Christy’s talk set exactly the right tone for the rest of the conference – but I was surprised at the number who just didn’t connect with what she was saying. I did wonder whether this reflected the fact that too many leaders fall into the very trap that she was warning against…
One speaker who made a big impression on most people was Jon Tyson, an Australian pastor at Trinity Grace Church in New York. His passion is for churches to engage thoughtfully with the surrounding culture. Too often, evangelical Christians have rejected secular culture where a more intelligent engagement would be far more constructive. He rooted this in a critique of the prevailing theology: evangelicals have held to a truncated view of God’s plans for the world, emphasising the Fall of man and God’s redemption, while neglecting God’s creation and his plans for restoration. This resonated with me because I have read NT Wright making the same basic point.
In practical terms, the seminars on church planting (in one of the ministry streams) were particularly helpful. Michael Moynagh gave a talk based on research that he’s done on Fresh Expressions – and he enthused about their effectiveness at outreach. Thus he found, from studying those in ten dioceses, that 40% regularly attending Fresh Expressions have had no significant church experience before.
One of the central achievements of Moyhagh’s talk was not getting ensnared by the big church versus small church debate which clouds much discussion on this and similar issues. He pointed out that the traditional church planting model – of a large church sending out a team of about 50 to a new area – is highly effective, under certain limited circumstances. Nevertheless, the model which is probably most broadly applicable is one which relies on smaller teams of 6-12 moving into an area, serving the community, listening, and demonstrating God’s love by practical action.
New Wine is seeking to become more effective at resourcing pioneer ministry. I found both Moyngah’s talk and the subsequent one by Gareth Robinson very helpful in enabling me to think through these issues.
The three days there were most enjoyable. There were of course other delights while there – not least sharing enormous naan breads at a local Indian restaurant with Geraint and Debra Hill from CFM in Dine’s Green!